Features book exams, forays into novel writing, editing, publishing, and book love.
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|Posted by naomidawnmusch on May 6, 2013 at 5:20 AM||comments (0)|
I learn something new about style, rules, or my writing idiosyncracies with every editor I work with. The key to the entire experience is to gain from the knowledge and not kick against the pricks.
Today I'm working on edits for my upcoming contemporary novel PAINT ME ALTHENA (August 2013). I have a new editor on this one. This is the 5th editor I've worked with on my fiction. Just like the others, she's brought something to the table I've never noticed about my writing before. In this case (as in a few others previously) it's an unconcious writing habit I need to get over.
When you work with an editor, you won't always agree with a substantive change, or you might feel you have to justify your position in a choice of wording or character peculiarity, but ultimately you need to remain gracious and bendable because, usually, the editor is right. I've been offering writing instruction to young writers in my homeschool community and through a Novel Writing Site tutorials, and in both places I stress that writers have to grow thick skins. The fact is, you'll never quit learning and getting better at your craft unless you can take criticism and remember that your published book is not a kingdom built on the island of YOU. There are other names at stake -- your publisher's, your editor's, your designer's, and anyone who endorses your book or allows you a visit to their blog.
So be flexible. Consider what those editors are telling you. Don't quibble over inconsequential things. If something worthy of discussion does arise, something that is really dear to you, then address it graciously.
The publishing world is not as big as you think. The author's is not the only name out there in the finished book. It'll also be connected to the people you work with and mentioned among others in the publishing community. In that world, do you want to be thought of as an egotistical writer, or as a growing writer, willing to travel this journey with a team?
Not always easy, but I'd rather be the latter.
By the way, should my editor happen to read this, I hope she'll note that I didn't begin any sentences with "but".
|Posted by naomidawnmusch on May 2, 2013 at 5:25 AM||comments (0)|
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"Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures." This quote attributed to Jessamyn West showed up on a Facebook meme lately, and I've been thinking about it ever since. It makes a great mantra for Christian writers.
What are truths that Christians frequently try to reveal through story – some more successfully than others?
If I just started in Genesis and copied down the whole Bible, I’d get to all the truths there are to expose. The point is, just as a preacher seeks to expose Biblical truth in a sermon, so the creative writer can expose Biblical truth through story.
Jesus himself did this each time he told a parable. He developed a scenario his listeners could relate to, and taught them truth through those stories. The prophet Nathan did likewise when he came to King David and told him the story of a rich man who’d desired the lamb of a poor man. Through his story, David came to recognize his sin against God and Bathsheba’s husband Uriah.
In the early days of Christian fiction, there was much debate about whether or not it deserved a place. It wasn’t long, however, before people began to see how Christian fiction could minister by revealing obscured truths. Think of a book you have read that ministered to you this way?
I learned much about history and the human condition as it relates to God’s involvement with humanity by reading the historical works of authors like Bodie Thoene, Francine Rivers, and T.L Higley. I have had my heart healed through words of encouragement between characters going through similar traumatic situations as mine in books by Karen Kingsbury and Susan May Warren. My heart has been stirred to holy passion by the deeds of characters again and again. I’ve been able to relate my life, my trials, my hopes, and my sins to theirs – and found myself praying with my eyes open to deeper truth.
But revealing truth is not easy. It isn’t preached in fiction. That’s a different kind of revelation. It is slowly exposed.
Like a loose thread in a woven tapestry, it slowly frays apart, exposing color and texture, until at last a reader realizes a truth along with some character or group of characters. That’s a difficult thing for a writer to accomplish, and it’s what lies at the heart of perfecting our craft. To accomplish this is quite an achievement, and a worthy goal for any Christian writer to attain to.
There is always the temptation to explain what's happening, to uncover the truth too easily. In the true spirit of ministry, we must allow the reader to discover it on their own, the way one would watch a flower unfold. We must give the Holy Spirit His way to work, perhaps revealing truths we aren't even aware of having inbued into the story. Author intrusion can go far beyond what writers normally consider it to be. We can get in the Spirit's way.
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|Posted by naomidawnmusch on April 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM||comments (4)|
I won't ask whether or not you call your writing Christian, but instead, whether or not you call yourself a Christian writer. There's a difference. A Christian writer might write about specifically Christian content, or she might write cross-over content that stems out of her inner ideals, revealing something about the author, but not containing pointedly Christian content. Writing that is Christian, on the other hand, is just that. It is content that is directed at Christians, or at those seeking to discover something more about Christian thought. Occasionally non-Christians might read it and be spurred to look deeper at faith and Christianity. There are places for both of course -- specific Christian content, and Christians whose voices don't preach at all, but their world view is organic to their writing -- and for a wide gamut of style and voice in between.
We writers are unique individuals, and God's calling on our craft is as unique to each of us as we are ourselves. There is no "right" way to write, as long as each of us calling ourselves Christians seeks to honor God in the manner in which He has prompted us to use our craft.
For that reason, I can't be bothered by debate about whether or not a theme or story is "too overtly Christian" or "not Christian enough". There are readers who desire both. Thus, God uses our gifts to fill the needs of all types of readers.
With that in mind, I've decided to create a line of blog posts about what it means to use Writing as Ministry. No matter how far we lean one way or another in our style as Christian writers, it's true that anyone whose heart yearns toward God hopes to create a place in their writing where readers will come to find peace, hope, joy, inspirations, or simply relaxation. We seek to minister, whether subtly or overtly.
Take some time today to think about your writing ministry. How have you prayed about it lately? How do you hope to be an encourager -- or simply an entertainer who offers goodness and joy? How do you feel God growing you, using you, teaching you? What do you feel God might be leading you to do with your ability? Is He nudging you to write a novel, a poem, a feature article, an essay, an editorial? Will you use your ministry to write Gospel tracts, church newsletters, or creative writing lessons for homeschoolers? Will you write a letter to a home-bound elder, jot a note of encouragement to a distant Facebook friend, text a verse to a grand-daughter or nephew away at college?
Let's not narrow ourselves in how we view writing as ministry. Instead, let's be challenged by the scope of the gift and the desire God has given.
Now in both paperback and ebook!
|Posted by naomidawnmusch on April 17, 2013 at 10:35 AM||comments (0)|
I've been stuck. Not with writing my novel or editing or any of that other good stuff writers get blocked about. Nope, I just haven't blogged in a while. Not here anyway. And I feel a little like Solomon when he pointed out that there's nothing new under the sun. So here I am, digging up from some deep place inside me, ways to jumpstart my thoughts in blogger fashion.
If none of these ideas works to get me unstuck, I have only to be patient. If I keep at doing these, eventually I'll have an epiphany.
Now in Paperback as well as Ebook!
|Posted by naomidawnmusch on February 20, 2013 at 4:50 AM||comments (7)|
Since we're still in February, which brings to mind Valentine's Day and thoughts of romance, I thought I'd take a look at something that's been confusing me for a while. Sometimes when I'm reading, I'll think: What is this novel, exactly, a murder mystery or a romance?
I might be attracted by a novel's cover that screams: classic murder mystery. Then as I get into the story the romance takes over to such an extent I wonder what genre I'm in.
I hope I'm not shooting myself in the foot, because every novel in my Sanctuary Point series has a love story. However, I think I'm safe when I say, the whodunit aspect is what drives the story, not the romance. In my stories, there are also deep family relationships, parents loving children and siblings loving each other... and tight friendships. Then again, these do not keep the plot moving along; the mystery story line does that.
Don't get me wrong. I like romance in a classic mystery novel. I just don't want it taking over the story. I want mysteries to be about solving a puzzle. I want to follow the clues and for there to be tons of red herrings that confuse me. I love it when the author is one-step ahead of me, throwing a monkey wrench into my theory as to who the killer might be.
I enjoy character angst and a heroine or hero with character flaws. What I don't like is when the main character is constantly agonizing over her/his love life to the point where it becomes the focal point of the book. For me, the focus has to be solving the crime. Hey, it's a murder mystery. There's body. I do like conflict throughout, but it should be varied and it should add suspense, not take away from it. I like to see the detective having a problem with his partner or the police chief. Or perhaps, there's a corrupt television news anchor who is out to get the detective.
In my latest release, DARKEST HOUR, when medical examiner Hank Jansen insists the prime suspect could not have fired the murder weapon; powerful forces in the community come against him. And yes, he does fall for the young widow who is being framed for murder. To avoid a conflict of interest, he takes a leave of absence from his job and launches his own investigation. So, what exactly do I write? I guess you could say my novels are whodunits with a side of romance.
Main genre or sub-genra -- an area causing confusing in publishing?
A "heart throbber" might be better suited for romantic suspense. That's a genre or sub-genre all to itself. Still, while there would be a good deal more romance, even here, I want don't want the suspense to become completely overshadowed by the love story. If that's going to be the case, it should simply be called a romance. Some of the romantic suspense novels I read could be considered a sub-genre of the romance category. I prefer to read romantic suspense that falls squarely under the mystery genre. And I think this is an area of confusion in publishing today.
What can the author do to help?
How is a reader to know what type of suspense novel they're purchasing? I'm a huge advocate of the cover telling us what type of story we're about to purchase. Amazon allows the reader to take a gander at the first pages. And it's Kindle lets the reader sample the novel before purchase. So, do other e-readers. So, it's up to the author to "clue the reader in" in those first paragraphs as to what type of read this will be. It's better to let the reader know beforehand and not risk a negative review later.
Purchase Links for The Darkest Hour:
About the Author
Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (penciled might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.
She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chairman, a reader's choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 and 2012 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. BURNING HEARTS, the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series, finaled in the Grace Awards 2011 in the Romance/Historical Romance category. GOODBYE NOEL, the second book in the series released in December, 2011 won the Grace Award 2011 in the Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller category. PERILOUS SHADOWS, third in the series released July, 2012, and DARKEST HOUR, the fourth in the series released in February, 2013. She is a member of American Christian FictionWriters (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). http://nikechillemi.wordpress.com/
|Posted by naomidawnmusch on February 5, 2013 at 10:20 AM||comments (2)|
Bobbing around in the yummy, inspirational, historical novel section of the internet (surely you've heard of that genre "yummy" ) you can hardly have missed hearing something about Christine Lindsey's Shadowed in Silk. Set in India only months after the WWI armistice, during a period when native Indians grew increasingly restless under the British raj, Shadowed in Silk tells the story of a young woman caught up in national turmoil, international intrigue, and a marriage in tatters which had barely begun. It is also the storyof a British officer whose heart has been broken by personal loss, by war, by an aching for the Indian people not shared by his peers. Sights, sounds, and other characters, richly developed, move throughout the pages giving readers an immersion into the world that was India in 1918.
While telling a remarkable and riveting tale spilling with vivid historical detail, what really struck me about Christine's book from a writer's point of view, was her diverse use of language that gave the characters emotional expression in each scene. If you write, you know how it is sometimes -- you get mentally stuck in a world of bland, worn out phrases -- she smiled, he dipped his head, her heart pounded -- those kinds. Some days at the keyboard we wrestle for a better way to express character emotion and physical action.
I jotted down forms of a few of the phrases in Shadowed in Silk that I found impactful to the scenes Christine was spinning. Here are some of them:
The tightness across her shoulders eased.
Her stomach slammed against her spine.
A flicker of excitement passed behind his eyes.
His pulse beat a tattoo at the base of his throat.
He roped his good hand into her hair and jerked her to him.
Her vision went white with pain.
Everything funneled so all she saw was his face above hers.
The old man's face wreathed with a smile but quickly became a sober mask.
Creases at the corners of his eyes fanned out with his smile.
His brain felt like the hot mash of rotting potatoes.
A flicker of awareness crossed her face.
He went on, feeling coldness lap around his heart.
Ice water flooded his veins.
His insides writhed.
A nerve flickered across one of her eyelids.
His voice dipped further
Pay special attention to the power of her nouns and verbs. Tightness eased, stomach slammed, creases fanned... She uses strong words to incite an emotional reaction from the reader.
Christine's novel is definitely worthy of the rave reviews and awards she's received. Writers would find it worth their time to read it with an eye on craft. For a debut novelist, Christine has written with a depth from which any writer can learn to improve technique, especially ways in which to express character actions and emotional responses.
|Posted by naomidawnmusch on January 31, 2013 at 10:05 AM||comments (9)|
Tweets about your novel are advertisements, plain and simple. We writers cringe to think of "pushing" our novels, but facts are facts. In this day and age, we can't crawl away in a corner and hide from the marketing monster.
The real trick to advertising our books on Twitter or any other blurb-posting-social-networking site, is finding the right 140 characters (or whatever brevity the site demands) that won't sound like we're shouting, "Here comes a sales pitch!" but will cause our followers to say, "Whoa!" and click a link.
I'm sure I've written plenty of those "gag me" pitches myself. So what kind of tweet might actually stir interest without being off-putting or just too easy to mouse past?
There are a few, but first, you have to realize that no matter how genius the tweet, it isn't going to appeal to everyone, because not all your followers will be drawn particularly to your kind of novel. Really, I read zero sci-fi. No matterhow perfectly crafted, startling, or mind-bending your tweet, I'm probably not going to click through and investigate your novel even if I thought the tweet snappy or clever.
The same goes for some people who see my tweets. If inspirational or historical novels don't interest them, it doesn't matter how fantastic my tweets are.Those folks aren't my intended audience.
But,for those who are, several things matter:
First, does the tweet offer them something enticing and different? There are a zillion tweets about how "she is stalked by a killer". Well, that might be a great book, but I'm a bit immune to that mention in a tweet because I see it so often. Tell me something different. What makes her stalking unique? Or how can you give me that same information without using the same worn-phrase. Think smart adjectives or sharp verbs. (I believe tweeting is one place where adjectives can be helpful.) Here are two such tweets I like from Nike Chillemi:
SANCTUARYPOINT mystery series. Tiny village, close knit families, heinous killers. #inspy #1940s http://tiny.cc/7jcbrw
Cryptic message cut out of newspaper headlines. Is the killer hunting reporter Kiera Devane? PERILOUS SHADOWS http://is.gd/W2Hm2N
Second, include the book title whenever possible like Nike did above. Studies show most readers need repeated exposure to a book before they become interested. I think this is especially true when they can't see the cover. In that case, they need to see the title again, and again, and again. The repetition will hopefully create some buzz. I would also suggest putting the title in ALL-CAPS. Here are two tweets by Barbara E. Brink that each employ a clever play on words giving meaning to the title and definition to the genre:
Where murder & wine make the perfect vintage…CRUSHED #kindle http://ow.ly/h9hl6 #napa #mystery #romance
Jael plans to destroy the Bishop once & for all, but first she has to milk the goat… SHUNNED http://ow.ly/eKaeR #vampires #Amish #humor #YA
Third, make the best use of quotes from reviews and endorsements. Don't just say it's got a 5-star review. Give a powerful sample, some WOW words from the reviewer. If a reviewer called it a delicious read or a ripping good adventure, use it! Reviews are another place where adjectives can work in your favor. Also, if you're going to quote a review, use the hashtags #review or #reviewer, or else put the quote in actual quotation marks so you don't sound like you're making up your own brag.
Lastly, unless you truly don't have room, remember to include the title of the book, as I said in point two above. Here's an example of great use of a review or possibly it was used as a back cover endorsement. In it, I also like that author Janalyn Voight gave the name of the reviewer. That lends credibility:
★★★★★"Suspense, danger, visions, love, secrets..."I LOVE THIS BOOK!" Kim Justice: DawnSinger http://amzn.to/10n2TxP #YA #Adventure
Fourth, be creative. Come on! We're writers! Our blurb or tweet is the same thing as our elevator pitch, and needs to pack the same punch. Put effort into it. Don't be dull. Offer excitement, romance, adventure, intrigue, wit, fear, something that stirs our emotional curiosity. Key words like those in the tweet above that provide summary for the feel of the story are very important. Here's one of mine in which I also played off the word "renovation" because the heroine is a landscape architect:
Lapsing judgment, betrayal, doubt. Sean needs renovation for a HEART NOT TAKEN. http://ow.ly/h7NkG #Christian #contemporary #romance
And this one puts the plot in a nutshell:
Jesilyn longs for her twin's fiancé, and he can't tell them apart. THE BLACK ROSE http://ow.ly/h7Q6i #Historical #Women's#ChristFic
Fifth, Show, don't tell. This advice isn't just for the actual story-telling. Use clips in your tweet --you know -- novel hook lines. Include a hashtag like #novellines if you can fit it. The key is to allow your fellow tweeters to enjoy a snapshot, a brief moment of voyeurism into your book. In my opinion, this is one of the single, best ways to capture interest for your novel.
NOTE: When you use a hook line, it's very important that you step outside yourself as the author for a minute. Divorce yourself from your masterpiece. Really look at the line you've selected from the viewpoint of someone who knows zilch about your story and ask yourself the tough questions: Just because it's a great line to me, because I know the plot and am emotionally attached to the protagonist, would an outsider find it to be a great line? Does it have the power to entice on its own?
140 characters minus the ones needed for the title, link, or a hashtag isn't much room to entice a reader with a hook line, so don't use trite lines. Find something simply smashing. Here are a couple I've liked from Tammy Doherty, one from Marcy Dyer's new YA release, and several of my own I had fun digging up:
“He wants me all to himself, Abby. That’s what he said. No more working here at the saloon." CELTIC KNOT http://ow.ly/gO7MS #ChristFic #Kindle
“You killed her David. You killed your wife and child. Surely they’ll hang you for this.” CLADDAUGH #eBook #Christfic http://ow.ly/feMuN
"Just so we're clear," he whispered, "I don't have a girlfriend." Down & Out http://ow.ly/gLgw6 #Christfic #john316authors
"You're a catty girl, Margie, all willingness and wiles," he said softly. THE GREEN VEIL http://ow.ly/gOoDN #novellines #Inspy #HistFic
"Kelly has his demons, same as me. He's just possessed by them differently." THE RED FURY http://ow.ly/gVAw4 #novellines #kindle #histfic
She moved closer. "I mean, me marrying Mitch, well...it doesn't have to change anything." THE GREEN VEIL http://ow.ly/gB5XG #Inspy #Hisfic
"I like a little fight in a gal, but that ain't what I'm payin' for tonight." THE BLACK ROSE http://ow.ly/gi19A #ChristFic #HistFic
Sixth is a brief word on hashtag diversity. Think outside the box when it comes to hashtags. Instead of just using #novel, #HistFic, #romance etc. think of how your novel addresses those types of things. Does it deal with a former alcoholic anti-hero?Tweet #alcoholism. In my novel The Black Rose, the protagonist is a twin, so I hash-tagged #twins. My books are set in 1800s Wisconsin, so sometimes I use the #WiHistory hashtag. Is your novel about a little old lady who knits away while she solves mysteries? Maybe you can use a combination #knitting #reading hashtag. Do a few searches on interesting hashtags and see what kind of tweets they turn up. Don't make up a hashtag no one else uses, unless you're trying to create a brand for one you hope will go viral.
Finally, you know those novel tweets you glaze over when you're scolling down Twitter, the ones that make you yawn? Just pause at them and ask yourself why. And then, well... just don't tweet that way!
|Posted by naomidawnmusch on January 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM||comments (2)|
In the life of a writer, a day can make all the difference, as these two journal entries show. Read 'em and be encouraged. Then start scrubbing! Who knows what you'll uncover...
Jan. 14, 2013
Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!
I am stuck on a scene in my WIP. Grr. Writing this novel feels like mining for diamonds. Are they in there, under the rock? I'm such a dwarf, chipping away. My head lamp burns low. Where have the faeries gone to sprinkle magic dust on my efforts? I'm mentally exhausted from other efforts. Blogging, marketing, catching up on emails, responding to questions that have nothing even remotely to do with writing a masterpiece -- or anything else.
Jan. 16, 2013
Once we removed a gas tank from our car to find the leak and fix it. We'd been able to smell it. A stain had grown on the side of the tank amid the dirt and rust. But where was that hole? Jeff took a wire brush to it and started scraping away the rust and dirt, when suddenly, not one hole, but dozens of tiny holes appeared. The tank was riddled with them like a sieve! The tank had become a virtual gusher!
Yesterday my writing was like that. I brushed away the rust in my brain, the dirt clogging the story. Slowly at first, and then suddenly, the story poured forth, running out onto the page!
What a difference a day makes. What a difference a little prodding, a little scrubbing away, a little searching makes.
I can't wait to write today.
If you're stuck, pull out some research for your story and start perusing it. It might inspire you with a scene or a way to heighten conflict. When all else fails, look through the appendix. Sometimes a word will inspire an idea. I once wrote an entire novel after finding the phrase "casket girl" in an appendix of a history book.
|Posted by naomidawnmusch on January 7, 2013 at 11:20 AM||comments (0)|
Do you feel free to follow your dreams? I'm afraid some Christians don't. Some Christians wander through life in self-enclosed cages of fear. They hide behind a mistaken view of real righteousness that denies them access to their dreams.
"I couldn't possibly write romantic fiction. That doesn't glorify God!"
"I don't have time to plant rose bushes. Something so frivolous would steal time from my family. That wouldn't make me Godly wife and mother (or please the relatives who scowl at my house clutter)."
"I'm not capable starting this ministry. God wants somebody able to really do for him."
**Insert your dream.** Do you long to sing, run marathons, lose weight, read more, build a house, find a life-mate, become a chef? What is it, and what's keeping you from pursuing your dream in 2013?
Notice I said pursuing and didn't say achieving your dream. Achieving is only partially up to you. What you need to do is put legs to it. Chase after it. Explore all your options. Cast aside doubt and fear. You are free to do this.
What got me thinking about this is partly the confidence with which God has bolstered my own dreams over the years, and partly the words of a song. You might be familiar with Dara Maclean's song Free. Here's the refrain:
You tell me I've been made free
You give me everything I need to walk in my dreams
You whisper words that free my soul
You're the reason I have hope
You're everything I need and more
You made me
You made me free
The song talks about our human tendency to waste the gifts God has given each of us, about how fear and trying to be someone else other than ourselves locks us up inside. Here's a YouTube link if you haven't heard it. FREE by Dara MacLean and here's a link where Dara shares the personal and spiritual message behind the song.
Be free in the New Year, my friends. Explore your MANY talents and gifts from your Creator. Walk in your dreams.
|Posted by naomidawnmusch on January 6, 2013 at 5:00 AM||comments (0)|
She shook her head, her breath more tenuous than a single strand of her hair stretched taut. Slowly he stroked it with the back of his hand, from the side of her face all the way down its length, pausing to rub it between his fingers at the end.
She closed her eyes then forced them open again before she was lost. Yet never had she so wanted to be lost to a man's touch. Never.
Paul cleared his throat and stepped back. "Forgive me. I nearly forgot myself."
"Nothing to forgive." She blinked. "You're my husband, after all."
His eyes had grown darker. They'd deepened with some pent up emotion, some... longing.
Now. Tell him now.
Available in all eBook formats.
This concludes The 12 Days of Christmas Grace-Filled Book Blitz sponsored by The Grace Awards. If you missed any excerpts from The Green Veil, The Red Fury, or The Black Rose, just keep scrolling! Happy New Year!